In a situation as crucial as a one-game playoff like the upcoming AL wild-card game at Yankee Stadium, there are certain players the A’s just have to expect to be able to count on.
You count on guys such as Matt Chapman, one of six players in the majors to score 100-plus runs while hitting 40-plus doubles and 20-plus home runs this season.
You count on Khris Davis, who finished the season as MLB Home Run King with 48 bombs, hitting 28 of those when the team is trailing by one run.
You count on Blake Treinen, who literally put together a season unlike anything a closer has ever done by posting a 0.78 ERA over 80 1/3 innings, the lowest in major league history among pitchers with a minimum of 75 innings pitched.
These three players are not just the top three on the A’s, they all will be receiving AL MVP votes this year.
It’s those types of players you assume will provide some sort of positive contribution. But as is the case pretty much every postseason, it’s often a player you least expect who come up big in crucial situations.
Here are five A’s who don’t necessarily need to be the hero in Wednesday’s wild-card game, but need to produce:
The A’s did not officially name their starter after Sunday’s loss to the Angels, but there are strong indications Hendriks will be the one called upon to open things as part of a bullpenning strategy at Yankee Stadium, which might not be as crazy as you think.
The right-hander has been flawless in the “opener” role, not allowing a first-inning run in his eight September starts.
If he does take the first inning, Hendriks would be tasked with getting through a group of hitters that would feature dangerous threats such as Aaron Judge, Aaron Hicks and possibly Giancarlo Stanton.
In the electric zoo that is Yankee Stadium during the postseason, getting through that first inning unscathed would be imperative.
The A’s have put a lot on the rookie’s plate and he has handled it impressively, from earning the starting center field job to batting leadoff against lefties, which the A’s could face in J.A. Happ.
Laureano is a spark plug. Whether it’s throwing out a runner on the bases, swiping a bag, or starting a rally with a big hit, the A’s could use a boost in some form from the exciting outfielder to get them going.
It might seem like a lot to put this type of pressure on a guy with just over 20 big league games under his belt, but Wendelken has done it to himself the way he has been throwing.
The right-hander forced his way onto the wild-card roster, yet to allow a run since his call up Aug. 30 — 11 scoreless innings. Not only should Wendelken be relied on to pitch in this game, he might be asked to go more than one inning, as he has shown the ability to do so during the past month.
It has been a whirlwind of a season for the rookie reliever. After bursting onto the scene with a fabulous first five months as the set up man to All-Star closer Blake Treinen, Trivino seemed to hit a wall in September as he posted an 8.00 ERA that month.
The right-hander breathed a sigh of relief in his final two outings of the regular season at Angel Stadium as he put together back-to-back scoreless innings after combining to allow seven runs in the previous two. It was a sign to manager Bob Melvin that Trivino has a good feel for his signature cutter again and is ready to resume his role in high-leverage situations.
“The velocity is there and he had good command last couple days,” Melvin said. “We feel like he’s back to normal and a guy we’re not afraid to go one-plus or two innings with.”
Piscotty has been clutch in his first season with the A’s, hitting 12 of his career-high 27 home runs in the seventh inning or later.
The track record of postseason success is there. In his one playoff series, which came with the St. Louis Cardinals in the 2015 NLDS against the Chicago Cubs, Piscotty went off with a .375 average and three home runs over four games.
“He’s hit so many big home runs for us in big games,” Melvin said. “It’s nice to have somebody like that that seems to respond in clutch moments.”
If it’s a close game Wednesday night, Piscotty will be a guy the A’s lean on to come through in a big spot, as he did so often in the regular season.